Lucas and Lorna 1992...
Lucas and Lorna 2009...
"I brought you some turkey," Lorna offered Lucas a foil container. "Want me to pop it in the microwave?"
Her father's face suggested that day-old Thanksgiving fare wasn't his first choice for a breakfast of champions, but he did step aside and let her take the few steps necessary to reach his hotel room's euphemistically dubbed "kitchenette area."
"How's Fanny?" he asked.
"Good," Lorna bobbed her head. "Rachel's idea of moving holiday dinner to the hospital really did her good. Also, Lori Ann is doing a million times better. She's breathing on her own now; they've weaned her completely off the respirator. She's still so small, but she's going to make it. Everyone is pretty sure of that."
Lucas smiled. "I can't wait to see her."
"What do you mean?" Lorna slammed shut the microwave door and whipped around.
"I mean that I'm done hanging around here, twiddling my thumbs, wasting instead of making up for lost time with Fanny."
"Lorna!" He raised his voice, fully in parent-mode. "I promised you that I wouldn't add to Felicia's stress while Lori Ann was in critical condition. You just told me yourself, the baby is getting better. And so is Felicia."
"So? What? You're just going to show up at the hospital and yell Surprise?"
"Something like that."
"And where are you going to tell her you've been for the past seventeen years? Those were some pretty bad people you had to buy your freedom back from. You think they're going to appreciate you spreading the word about their activities?"
"I'll tell her as much of the truth as I can, without putting Felicia in danger."
"What about me?" Lorna asked. "What's the plan? Am I supposed to act surprised when I see you? Welcome home, Daddy!"
"I won't tell Felicia that you knew I was alive these last few years. Don't worry."
"Fine. You won't tell her. What about Cass? What about Rachel? What about Carl? They know I've been keeping you a secret from Felicia. If not for a few years, as far as they're concerned, at least for these past few weeks. No one's said anything so far, but once you come out of hiding, all bets are off. Carl will spill the beans out of spite, Rachel will do it because she probably thinks it's the honest thing, and Cass... well, we all know Cass can't keep a confidence from Mom. Not for long, anyway."
"Leave it to me," Lucas reassured his daughter. "I have a pretty good idea of how to keep all three of them at bay."
After all this time, Alice had forgotten how pleasant it could feel to wake up in a man's arms. She lay with her back pressed to Spencer's chest, and when he felt her stir he kissed her shoulder and murmured, "Good morning."
She smiled lazily and concurred, "It is a good one, isn't it?"
"I'm glad you feel that way," Spencer said. "I was afraid... I thought..." He took a deep breath and confessed, "I'm glad you don't have any regrets."
Alice turned around to face him. She asked, "Is that a frequent occurrence with you?"
For a moment, Spencer failed to get the joke. Once he did though, his entire body convulsed into laughter as he pulled her into a deeper embrace.
"Alice Frame, you are a remarkable woman..."
For a long time, Jamie said nothing. He simply stared at Frankie, momentarily struck dumb by her confirmation. Not that he didn't already know it. But until she said it, he could still pretend.
"So that was you? I thought... I thought maybe it was just somebody who reminded me of you. Who looked like you. There was this other woman "
"Yeah. Anne. Somebody, Mom or Amanda or Matt, yeah, I think it was Matt. He told me about her. He said she looked so much like you. So I thought, well, here's another one. Or maybe I was hallucinating. Or maybe we were both dead. Between the drugs and wishing I was dead, I thought..." He looked at Frankie again. "It really was you I was talking to back then. You heard everything. You know everything."
Frankie tread carefully, "All I know was that you were a fellow patient. As sad and broken as the rest of us. Life had knocked you down pretty hard and you were doing your best to hold on. That's nothing to be ashamed of. I remember you talked about Steven a lot. About how much you missed him, how you wanted to be a good dad for him but felt you'd failed..."
She stopped talking as Jamie turned away, affected by her words.
"I'm happy to see that you're better now," Frankie forced herself to sound upbeat. "Steven and Kirkland seem like wonderful boys."
"They are," he nodded. "They're great kids. They don't know about any of this. But, Holy Hell, Frankie, I swear to you, if I'd know who you really were... If my mind hadn't been so fried and I'd given it a moment's thought... I'd have gotten you help. I'd have gotten you out there, you have to believe me."
"You can help me now, Jamie. I'm sorry to put you in this position, but I genuinely believe my daughter's life is at stake. Cass and I need to stop Cecile once and for all. And the only weapon I can think of to use against her is you. I haven't got a single shred of evidence to prove what she did to me. But you, you can go to the police and testify that you saw her with me, that you heard "
"You want me to testify," Jamie sucked in a breath, shaking his head. "That while I was in a mental institution getting treatment after a suicide attempt, I saw my ex-wife talking to my dead cousin, who I didn't recognize because I was drugged to the gills? Even if they believed me..."
"Why wouldn't they? You're okay now. Rachel, Marley, Steven, Kirkland, they can all speak to that. They "
"Don't know that I ever wasn't okay," Jamie finished. "And I don't want them to know. They can't know."
"Your pride is more important than my daughter's life?"
"This isn't about my pride, Frankie. This is about my son's life. I'm in the middle of a custody battle. Do you have any idea what Grant or Kevin Fowler would do in court with proof that I was a mental patient for several months?"
"At least Kirkland would still be alive, no matter what happens. If Cecile has her way, my daughter will be dead. You know she's capable of it."
Jamie closed his eyes with a weary nod. "I know exactly what Cecile is capable of."
"Then help me stop her. Help me put her away so she can't hurt any of us anymore."
Jamie laughed darkly. "If it were only that easy."
"It can be."
"If the authorities believe me. And that's a pretty damned big if to blow my life up over."
Frankie held his gaze, refusing to give him an inch even though she sympathized and understood where he was coming from.
He was trying to protect his family.
Well, the thing of it was, she was trying to protect hers.
And while it turned Frankie's stomach to say it, to use what she knew what she really knew, rather than just what she'd admitted to against him, if it came down to saving her daughter's life versus destroying Jamie's, Frankie wouldn't hesitate an instant.
"Don't make me threaten you, Jamie," she pleaded. "Don't make me say it. You know what I could do to you, if I felt I had no choice in the matter."
"Top of the morning to you, Marley. You're looking well."
His voice made her instinctively shudder. His calm, confident, mega-watt smile, which Grant beamed in her direction as she turned around, made Marley want to punch him right in the face.
"Really, now, Grant. The custody hearing is in a few hours. You couldn't have waited until then to ruin my day? You felt compelled to get a head start?"
As an afterthought, and to demonstrate that she did indeed have manners, she just wasn't choosing to employ them on Grant, Marley nodded as politely as she could to Lila, who stood behind him.
"We're actually here to look at some paintings for Grant's new house," his flunky de jour explained. "He's lookin' to get it done before the holidays."
"Unfortunately, Lila, I don't believe I have anything that would suit your boss's tastes. May I suggest that you take him to a local thrift store? Perhaps you can find a nice portrait of dogs playing poker."
"Oh, Marley, I do enjoy your sense of humor," Grant chuckled as he slowly perused a group of paintings. "This. This, I like."
"It definitely suits you," Lila nodded. "And it hasn't blinded me, yet. It might look nice over the fireplace."
"Perhaps in the study?"
"It's not for sale," Marley barked over them, arms crossed in front of her in what she hoped was a commanding rather than petulant stance.
"Then why is it still hanging on the wall?" Grant challenged.
"I haven't had the chance to take it down, yet."
"I see," Grant smiled cordially. "How about "
"I'm holding that for another customer," she quickly said. "Those, too," she added when he turned to yet another wall.
"The entire gallery?" Grant laughed skeptically. "Why, Lila, it seems Marley's business is booming." His eyes slid from Marley to something behind her. "Is that?" Grant rushed past her towards a far wall and lifted a painting off it. "It can't be."
"Take your oily fingers off that! You'll ruin it!" The Like everything else you touch was implied.
"I bought this for Vicky," Grant said in a voice of wonder. "I can't believe she kept it. What are you doing with it?"
Marley ignored the tender look in Grant's eyes as he gazed upon the painting, and shrugged. "I found it when I was going through Vicky's things. I liked it, so I kept it. If I had known it was from you, I would've burned it."
"Doubtful." Grant laughed. "You know quality when you see it. In art, and in other things." He turned to Lila. "What do you think? For the dining room? The light would play off it, beautifully."
"You are not taking my painting!"
"It's my painting," Grant corrected her. "I bought it for your sister. Since she is no longer in the position to claim ownership "
Her hand itched to slap him, and slap him good. But a red handprint on Grant's face, not to mention explaining how it got there, was not how Marley intended for their preliminary hearing to begin.
"I will break that painting over your head," she warned, "Before I let you have it."
Grant grinned in unabashed amusement. "I dare you."
Marley looked from the painting to his face, imagining the sweet satisfaction both acoustic and visual; Grant did say she appreciated quality things of cracking it over his swelled, bloated, arrogant cranium.
But he was right, damn him. She wouldn't destroy a beautiful painting Vicky's painting, no less on his fat head. And damn Grant again for somehow getting inside her mind. Damn him for knowing her so well that he instinctively understood that.
"Just take it and go!" she spit at him before stalking away, ignoring Grant's laugh as she sought the safety of her office.
"And that," Grant confided to Lila, "Is how I plan to get Kirkland back, as well."
It wasn't until Monday morning, when a nurse off-handedly told Felicia that if Lori Ann kept improving at her current rate she'd be able to go home soon, that Felicia realized the baby still had no official home.
With that in mind and with the nurse's reassurance that she'd watch Lori Ann extra closely while her Grandma was gone Felicia set out to see Kevin Fowler, determined to settle this issue once and for all.
She knew he was practicing out of a suite at the Lakeside Hotel while in Bay City, and felt no qualms about barging right in without an appointment. After the way he'd barged unexpectedly into her life, it was the least Felicia figured she could do.
Some of the drama of her arrival was unfortunately tempered, however, by the fact that Kevin wasn't alone. Instead of the fire-breathing ogre with devil horns roasting babies on a spit that Felicia had built up in her mind, piece by hideous piece, during the taxi ride over, she encountered a conservatively dressed fellow in a gray albeit designer suit, talking softly and seriously across his desk to a broad-shouldered, curly haired man in a sport-coat and tie, and a petite blonde woman wearing what appeared to be a custom-made Melinda Sue Lewis Original.
Kevin looked up in surprise, but then, without missing a beat, offered, "Speak of the devil."
Wasn't that supposed to be her line?
"This is Felicia Gallant," Kevin said. "Lori Ann's grandmother. Ms. Gallant, may I present Dr. and Mrs. Rick Bauer. They're from Springfield."
"Are you kidding me?" Felicia couldn't help it. Every emotion, every iota of rage that she'd managed to suppress for all the weeks and weeks and weeks while she and Jenna and Dean sat like rats in a cage, and all of the subsequent days of watching her daughter in pain, her daughter dying, her son-in-law completely collapsing, and her unfathomably tiny granddaughter fighting for life, spilled out onto Kevin, the remnants splashing over the for-all-she-knew-innocent couple from Springfield. "The ink is still wet on that sham piece of paper you coerced Dean into signing, and you're already auctioning Lori Ann off to the highest bidder? You're going to give my daughter's child away to total strangers? How much are they paying you?" She spun around to face Rick and Mindy. "How much is my granddaughter worth on the open market?"
"I'm sorry," Kevin said. But he wasn't addressing Felicia. He was addressing the horrified looking couple in front of him. "As I mentioned to you, Ms. Gallant has been under an unbearable amount of strain recently." He picked up a file from his desk and skimmed through it. "You know what? It looks like I have everything I need from you to get the process started. Let's talk again in a few days. Have a safe drive home."
The justifiably cowed pair mumbled their good-bys, shook hands, and hightailed it out of there, leaving Kevin alone with a not even vaguely appeased Felicia.
"So tell me, Mr. Fowler, what exactly do those two have that makes them more fit than me to raise Lori Ann?"
"You really want to know?" Kevin asked.
"Oh, yes. Do enlighten me with just a fraction of your infallible, all-knowing wisdom."
"Alright," Kevin took a seat and gestured for Felicia to do the same. "For one thing, they're a married couple. The courts tend to prefer two adoptive parents to one, all things being equal."
"I'm sorry that my being widowed offends the court. I'll try to be less careless next time."
"For another, they are both about twenty years younger than you, give or take."
"Give," Felicia said dryly.
"Finally, the husband is a doctor, which, bearing in mind your granddaughter's potential special needs, is a nice bonus. I've talked to Lori Ann's surgeon and her pediatrician, neither one is certain she won't end up needing some level of lifelong medical care. That's another area where the age of her potential guardians is a consideration. Have you given any thought to what would happen to Lori Ann when you're gone? I am taking all of those factors into account. Oh, and, by the way, I have no intention of placing Lori Ann with the Bauers."
The pokerfaced way in which he presented his final fact, without changing either expression or tone, momentarily threw Felicia for a loop. She regrouped to ask, "Then what was that all about, introducing me as Lori Ann's grandmother, if you hadn't just been telling them about me?"
"I was telling them about you. But as an example only. I explained to Mr. and Mrs. Bauer that I do all sorts of adoptions, closed as well as open. When there are living relatives involved, as in Lori Ann's case, I prefer the adoption be open, allowing for contact between the families. It is my intention to place Lori Ann here in Bay City, so that you and your daughter and anyone else you deem fit have plenty of access to her. But I handle over a dozen private adoptions a year. I'm always interviewing new prospective parents."
Felicia said, "You just have an answer for everything, don't you, Mr. Fowler?"
"It's my job."
"And you're so smug about it. Forcing your way into people's lives, playing God, deciding what's best from up there on your self-righteous, pompous, sanctimonious perch."
"I knew you were a writer, Ms. Gallant. I didn't realize you also got paid by the word to speak."
"You arrogant little prick..." Felicia seethed.
"I didn't ask for this," Kevin reminded. "I didn't go looking for Dean. Dean came to me. He put me in the middle of your business. He asked me to look after his daughter's best interests, a task he evidently deemed you inadequate for carrying out. You want to hate me? I assure you, you're not the first. You want to call me names? I assure you, you are far from the best. More importantly, you are not my client, Ms. Gallant. Lori Ann Frame is. And she is the only one I intend to answer to."
Felicia smiled icily and pointed a single finger in his direction. "Wrong...."
For the second time in as many weeks, Lila found herself reluctantly privy to information that she just did not care to know. Not only because of the wrinkles she was no doubt getting from all the frowning and brow furrowing as her brain worked overtime to make sense of the insensible, but also because it put her in the pickle of what to do with the information, who to tell, who not to tell...
First Lorna and Jamie.
Now, if her radar was as good as she thought it was, and it was....
Marley and Grant?!
"Have you lost whatever sense the good Lord gave you?" Lila snapped at her boss, who was still grinning down like an idiot at the painting in his hand. She smacked him with her purse.
He looked up, affronted. "What?"
"You! Marley! Doing your little waltz!"
"I have no idea what "
"Don't play dumb with me, Grant. You're gaga over Marley! She's the woman you were talking about the other night!"
He regarded her calmly, then turned his attention back to the painting. "Alright. Say that she was, hypothetically, the woman I was referring to..."
"No," Lila held up a stern finger. "You cannot play games with her. You cannot set out to 'test' her so you can break up her marriage!"
"Her sham marriage," Grant corrected. "And if you were paying attention, you'd know that our little waltz, as you called it, was not all one-sided. It takes two to tango to continue your hackneyed metaphor and Marley was dancing at least as furiously as I."
He had her there. Marley definitely had a... spark around Grant, all fired up and rising to the obvious bait.
"That's neither here nor there. The point is that you are supposed to be acting all shenanigan-free for Kirkland. But what I see coming down the pike with this thing between you and Marley, is one big ol' mess waiting to happen. What is Kirkland going to say if he finds out you're trying to seduce his step-mama/aunt so you can destroy his family, then swoop in and take him away for yourself?"
"Whatever Kirkland might have to say about the matter, it won't be regarding my role in it."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because, my beautiful genius. I, for once, will not be the villain of this tale."
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|